If space travel is fake, then why is it so tedious?
The Realities of Space
I will not even mention the name of pseudo-scientific self-promoting organizations that claim that our planet is not a globe and that space travel is fake. The belief that the Earth is flat was a natural assumption of humans who were without the benefit of basic scientific observations. The organized belief in the face of the realities began as a misguided paper in the 19th century. By the middle 20th century an organization was established that had to be like a version of misinformed Rotarians. That organization died a natural death due to the preponderance of people leaving the Earth and sharing their snapshots of our nice round planet. In the latter part of the 21st century when anything can be shared with the world regardless of how misinformed the organization reared its head again now fueled by people who enjoy the attention they get. This article is in no way an attempt to debunk silly beliefs, but a little perspective sometimes helps.
A lot of my childhood was shaped by NASA and the Apollo Program. I had the privilege to see Moon landings as they happened live. These broadcasts were day and night long events in the beginning. As time wore on interest and money for space exploration wained. Eventually, a shuttle launch would rate about a 30-second report on the national news. NASA TV has changed that. Now anyone can watch live broadcasts of launches to the International Space Station and beyond, spacewalks on the ISS, scientific research as it is conducted in the ISS as well as continuous live views of the Earth from space.
Astronauts Have a High Tolerance for Minutiae While Doing Mundane Chores in Extraordinary Circumstances
With this window into the everyday life of an astronaut, it is readily apparent that every second of work time is a well planned, well-rehearsed, well organized with nothing is left to chance. Recently there have been multiple Extra Vehicular Activities, EVAs outside the ISS to upgrade batteries that are fed by the solar array. These EVAs are up to eight our long marathons beginning with the astronauts in their suits being positioned into the airlock like floating balloons. Before and during the EVA there is constant contact with Mission Control in Houston as procedures are being read to the astronauts that give step by step directions for their every movement as they spend hours working outside the ISS. Each tool they use is listed, every location is known, and how to reach the locations are coordinated. Warnings about where to hold on and what not to touch are given. The level of detail even goes as far as to how many rotations it will take to unscrew a bolt holding a particular piece of hardware. Before they leave a work area all tools are accounted for and placed in their proper carrier.
This Makes Sense
Of course, this all makes sense when working in the harsh environment of space. There is no opportunity to go back for a forgotten tool. The cost of each EVA is high, the dangers are even greater, safety procedures must be followed to the letter. What if we applied this on Earth?
Play Along at Home
When I have an opportunity to watch an EVA I usually have it running on my computer screen while I am engaged on another project. This week the project was hanging pictures which for me is a big job involving multiple tools, locations, and procedures. My situation was like a reverse EVA. My tools were stored outside of my house and my worksite was inside up a flight of stairs. While the astronauts replaced a camera and batteries on the ISS with a calm voice from Houston telling them what to do each step of the way I made up the procedures on the fly. The astronauts carried a specific set of tools designed specifically for the job. I made five trips up and down the stairs, in an out of the house to search for a hammer, picture hangers, the right size nails, screws, a drill, etc. I constantly forgot things, grabbed the wrong things and when I got to the worksite I found that I still didn’t have the right tools. Structurally I found myself drilling into a stud that I was not prepared for. At no point would the astronauts encounter anything unexpected like that. I improvised constantly standing on a chair and plundered an extension cord from another part of the house when I did not want to drag a large one from outside. There is very little room for improv on the ISS, the book of procedures is specific as to what is to be done and when.
- Overplanning and minutiae are not in of themselves bad. We do not need to have step by step procedures for everything, however, a little organization will make any task go faster. I wasted a lot of time and energy running up and downstairs. This requires some front end loading and organizing materials and knowing what is needed for a job. That means less time pressurizing and depressurizing and more time getting things done.
- Watch an expert. For any job that is unfamiliar or if you want some tips that can help check YouTube before you strike out on your own. Learn the best practices and procedures.
- It does not matter who you are, we all have little mundane jobs that have to be done to keep our spaces liveable, safe, and organized. We get up, go to work, come home, and do chores. This is the same if you are working in space, only the work and small chores must be ultra-organized and choreographed and completed in a harsh environment. So, take pride in the little things that you do every day. Give yourself credit for getting things done. Take a little time and structure your tasks so that you can do them quickly and efficiently. Organization and planning require a little extra time, however, the time you save will allow you more time to yourself so you can step outside watch the ISS fly over in your night sky, and think about the people that work and live there just like you.